THE BIG PICTURE
The Packers are 2-1 heading into their bye week and they’re darn happy about it. Playing without five defensive starters, they only needed to protect a 31-3 lead. At home. Against the Detroit Lions. No sweat, right? Maybe if your offense continues to keep scoring and your defense makes the opposition chew up the clock on whatever scoring drives it manages. But that was hardly the case. The offense – except for running back Eddie Lacy – was dormant in the second half and the defense gave up touchdown receptions of 73 and 35 yards as the Lions roared back with three touchdowns and a field goal in their final five possessions. Only the offense’s ability to gain two key first downs in the final 3 1/2 minutes prevented this from being one of the great collapses in Lambeau Field history.
The Lions had scored on three of their last four possessions and had plenty of time to overcome a 14-point deficit with 9 minutes, 25 seconds to go. But they needed to keep the momentum going and get into the end zone on a drive that started at their own 13. After getting a crucial first down, the Packers defense made its best stand of the day. On first and 10, rookie linebacker Kyler Fackrell beat left tackle Taylor Decker for a 9-yard sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. On second down, linebacker Joe Thomas read a deep middle route to tight end Eric Ebron perfectly and got both hands on Stafford’s pass. Though he dropped a sure interception, it didn’t come back to haunt the Packers because on third and 19, Nick Perry sacked Stafford. By the time the Lions got the ball back they had only 5:05 left to score twice. They couldn’t do it.
Missing Clay Matthews (ankle/ hamstring), Datone Jones (knee) and Letroy Guion (knee) due to injury, the front seven was missing three of its four best players. It left Mike Daniels, Perry and Julius Peppers to lead a crew of first- and second-year players to get after Stafford. The guy who stepped up and filled the void the most was Perry. From the very first series, Perry set out to dominate Decker and he did so all game long. Perry finished with seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and a pass broken up. He was the lone player consistently after Stafford and he played a major part in the defense holding the Lions to 50 rushing yards. His performance comes on the heels of two strong outings to start the season, and he has established himself as a key player on defense.
It was a tough day for second-year corner Damarious Randall. A week after Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs danced around him for a big night, the Lions’ Marvin Jones did the same. The worst play was a 35-yard touchdown pass, giving the Lions life with 3:34 left in the game. Randall somehow lost his balance running down the field with Jones and fell to the ground, leaving the Lions receiver wide open for a touchdown. It was the worst of Randall’s transgressions, but there were others. Jones caught a 38-yard go route on him in the second quarter. He bit on an underneath route and allowed Jones a 23-yard reception down the right sideline. To be fair, Randall was battling an illness that forced him out of the game for a while and he had a terrific interception in the second quarter in which he ripped the ball from Ebron. But with Sam Shields (concussion) still sidelined, the Packers need him to be their shutdown corner.
RANTS & RAVES
RAVE: Mike McCarthy decided to be inclusive with his personnel and allowed receivers Trevor Davis and Ty Montgomery to play some significant snaps early in the game. Montgomery didn’t have a catch but Davis had one of the biggest plays in the game, drawing a 66-yard pass interference call on cornerback Nevin Lawson, who was trailing and had to grab the speedy Davis. Having Davis on the field gives the Packers a legitimate deep threat.
RAVE: The Lions were missing their best pass rusher, but his replacement had three sacks in two games, so it wasn’t like they were playing with a blocking dummy at defensive end. Regardless, the Packers’ offensive line had a terrific day protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and opening holes for Lacy. Rodgers had plenty of time and when he did scramble he wasn’t really being chased. On Lacy’s long run of 25 yards, the hole was so big Lacy could have walked through it. The Packers averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
RANT: The Packers are generally a man-to-man team, but with the Lions trailing by 28 points and the defense missing two starters in the secondary, defensive coordinator Dom Capers decided to play a lot of zone coverage. He probably was influenced by the secondary and linebackers’ inability to cover Ebron and Jones one-on-one in the first half. Whatever the case, it didn’t work. Stafford ate the Packers up with perfectly thrown balls into holes in the zone.
RANT: The Packers had four opportunities to make momentum-halting interceptions and just once did they come down with the ball. Safety Micah Hyde had a chance for an interception off a tipped ball and couldn’t corral it. Cornerback LaDarius Gunter turned on a deep ball into the end zone just in time to get his hands on the ball, but he let it slip through his grip. And Thomas, making a great break on a ball down the middle, had a pass right in his hands. But, you guessed it, he dropped it.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Instead of using Chris Banjo as the safety in the dime package, Capers went with rookie Kentrell Brice.
» In his first game of the season after sitting out with a hamstring injury, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott had a tackle and an assist on special teams. He also played on defense and had a tackle for loss.
» About an hour after the game, Lambeau Field was hit with a downpour that would have made things interesting had it occurred during the game.
» McCarthy did not line up receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield once all day. In the first two games, Cobb had lined up there 19 times. Montgomery lined up there several times and carried once for minus-1.
BY THE NUMBERS
3 – Punt return yards the Packers have this season.
7 – Performances in Lions history in which a receiver had more than Marvin Jones’ 205 yards Sunday, five of them by Calvin Johnson.
44.5 – Net punting average for opponents this season, compared to 39.0 for Jake Schum.
128 – Yards rushing the defense has given up in three games.
12 – Consecutive games QB Aaron Rodgers has gone without throwing for 300 yards.